Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

December 7, 2012

Chrysler seeking Tipton tax abatement

Company looking for a second time at the Getrag building

By Ken de la Bastide
KOKOMO TRIBUNE

TIPTON ­­ — Maybe the third time will be the charm for the 800,000 square-foot building at the intersection of U.S. 31 and Ind. 28 in western Tipton County.

The Chrysler Group LLC has filed documentation with the Tipton County Auditor’s office requesting a tax abatement on the building. It’s the second time Chrysler has been an active participant in the future of the facility.

Chrysler Corp. LLC was one of the first investors in the property in 2007 when it partnered with Getrag Transmission of Germany. That partnership ended in 2008.

Plans to manufacture solar panels in the facility failed to materialize this year when Abound Solar filed for bankruptcy.

Greg Townsend, Tipton County auditor, said Friday that a tax abatement request was filed with his office, but he declined to make the document available.

“Without permission from the applicant the document cannot be released,” he said. “It has been filed with this office. There is proprietary information in the application that cannot be released to the public.”

Chrysler spokesperson Jodi Tinson confirmed the company has filed for a tax abatement, but declined to release any additional information.

Chrysler Group will be working with the county regarding potential economic development incentives to assist us in making the business case for a possible future investment, Tinson said in a statement. Therefore, at this time, Chrysler Group has no further information to share.

“With the implementation of more than $1.3 billion in previously announced investments to produce the next generation of front- and rear-wheel drive transmissions, Kokomo remains at the center of the company’s powertrain offensive,” Tinson said. “We will continue to look for ways to improve our operations and our products to meet the new fuel economy standards and the needs of our customers.”

The plant is expected to assemble the new nine-speed transmission.

The asking price by W.W. Reynolds, who purchased the building in 2010, was $39.5 million. The original investment was estimated at $100 million. The facility was never completed.

Mike Cline, president of the Tipton County Board of Commissioners, said there is a request for a tax abatement on the property. He said attorney Rick Hall with Baker & Daniels is reviewing the document.

Cline said the tax abatement request will be considered by the commissioners at the Dec. 17 meeting.

The Tipton County Council may consider the request for initial approval on Dec. 18.

“The information will be coming out,” he said. “The company will determine when to make the announcement.”

Cline said he is not leery of Chrysler purchasing the property that it first had an involvement in back in 2007.

“Chrysler today is different than what it was in the past,” he said.

Commissioner Phil Heron said the request for the tax abatement was another step forward.

“This is a positive move,” he said.

Commissioner Jane Harper declined to comment.

Scott Friend, president of the Tipton County Council said the company is requesting a 10-year tax abatement on real and personal property.

Chrysler and German transmission manufacturer Getrag, had plans to manufacture transmissions at the facility it was announced in 2007. That agreement was dissolved in 2008 when Chrysler filed a lawsuit against Getrag and Getrag Transmission Manufacturing LLC, accusing the two companies of breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation in their ability to get financing for the project.

Getrag Transmission filed for bankruptcy in Michigan in November.

The building was sold in 2010 to W.W. Reynolds for Colorado based Abound Solar, with $400 million in loan guarantees from the Department of Energy to manufacture solar panels. Abound Solar declared bankruptcy in July and the building was put back on the market.